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The breads, cereals, crackers and baked goods that we eat on a daily basis come to us as a result of a successful wheat harvest, but harvesting wheat is an intensive process that involves careful planning, skill and the use of advanced machinery. With the help of technological advances made in farming machinery, people all around the world are now able to enjoy the many products produced from the golden grain.
Swather for Cutting and Drying
In areas where the growing season is short -- for example, the Northern United States and Canada -- farmers use a swather to harvest wheat. This piece of machinery is necessary in these regions because the wheat does not have enough time to dry before harvesting. The swather cuts the stems of the wheat and forms a windrow, which is a uniform row of cut small grain crop left to dry before combining or further harvesting. Farmers who own combines that aren't equipped to reap, or cut, the crop often use swathers.
Workhorse of the Harvest
The combine is an integral part of the wheat harvest. As the name suggests, a combine combines the tasks of reaping, binding and threshing -- which is loosening the head of the grain from the shaft. Before combines were available, farmers needed three separate machines to accomplish these tasks. Because they have removable, crop-specific heads, combines can be used to harvest many types of crops. A combine can hold a large amount of wheat, and when it fills up, it needs to be emptied before the harvest can continue.
Moving the Grain
Grain trucks are overlooked but important pieces of machinery in the wheat harvest. They often travel alongside the combines during the harvesting so that the wheat can be transferred quickly, and the harvest can proceed more efficiently. These trucks transport the harvested wheat from the fields to storage units or commercial sites for shipment. Grain trucks are often equipped with large, specialized wheels to provide extra traction and leverage in the fields.
Grain augers move the wheat from the grain trucks into the storage units, and they move it out again when it's time for the grain to go to market. An auger is a motorized, rotating, spiral shaft similar to a drill bit sometimes encased in metal tubing. Powered by a tractor, electrical motor or mounted engine, an auger can be extremely dangerous. Combines are also equipped with augers to move the wheat from the combine into the grain truck.
Bins and Storage Units
Metal or concrete bins or silos are covered structures equipped with fans or fuel burners that aerate and dry the wheat. Without proper storing, wheat quickly becomes useless for processing. Grain elevators and bins are often equipped with machinery to sort and move the grain in order to facilitate even drying.